Women Experiencing Homelessness Face Unique Challenges
Individuals experiencing homelessness face a variety of challenging and sometimes life-threatening obstacles every day. However, when it comes to women experiencing homelessness, there are additional challenges that threaten their health and safety on a regular basis. Among these challenges are access to menstruation products and prenatal care, increased rates of mental illness, and decreased levels of personal safety.
One of the many challenges associated with females experiencing homelessness is obtaining feminine hygiene products during menstruation. Every month, many females experiencing homelessness must choose between purchasing feminine hygiene products and their next meal. Feminine hygiene products are often more expensive than other basic care products, and most shelters do not provide items like pads or tampons free of charge. For many homeless women, the cost of these products is simply too much, so they will often turn to used t-shirts or rags as replacements. These homemade alternatives are unsanitary and cause health issues, especially without access to a washing machine. If you’d like to donate new packs of pads or tampons, you can learn how by visiting our list of needs, here.
When individuals experience homelessness, their access to health care tends to dramatically decrease, especially with regards to preventative care. For women, this means that they do not often receive regular mammograms, prenatal care, or other tests. Their access to contraceptives is also limited, so there is usually a higher rate of unintended pregnancies among homeless women. Due to all these factors, homeless women tend to have increased rates of abortions, as well as abnormalities during and after pregnancy.
Limited access to health care also affects mental illness rates among the homeless. Approximately one in four of all individuals experiencing homelessness are living with a severe untreated mental illness. In the United States, however, when it comes to women experiencing homelessness, a staggering 47% meet the criteria for a major depressive disorder, alone. This is twice the rate of the general population in this country.
Without the safety of a permanent home, individuals experiencing homelessness are more susceptible to violence and other types of danger. For women, however, these dangers pose even more of a threat to their lives on a daily basis than they do for men. In 2017, one European study found that 58% of homeless women were intimidated or threatened with violence in a twelve month period, compared to 42% of men. The same study showed that almost 25% of homeless women have been sexually assaulted in the last year. This increased susceptibility to violence, combined with limited access to health care, can be life-threatening and cause severe long-term physical and psychological harm.
Fortunately, many in our Portland community are working to create safer conditions for women experiencing homelessness. Earlier this year, several small businesses and Portland State’s architecture school worked together to construct sleeping pods for the Kenton Women’s Village. Kenton Women’s Village was created by local government to help keep women experiencing homelessness safe as they transition into permanent housing. Portland’s community, and all of us here at JOIN are proud of their efforts to support some of the most vulnerable women in our community.
JOIN works with women experiencing homelessness, and the general homeless population to transition out of homelessness and into permanent sustainable housing. If you’d like to help us reach more individuals and families in our community, please consider donating to our cause, today.